The Tampa Post on “Windows Service Center” scams

The Tampa Post’s technology Q&A columnist received a letter this weekend (toward the bottom of the link) about Windows tech support scammers. From the article:

The people performing the hoax sound remarkably professional and officious.

Depending on what you say to them, results vary a lot. When they call me, they’re anything but professional. Especially lately. They seem to be OK when they don’t think they’re talking to a computer professional. Mention that you do this for a living, that you have an advanced certification, or that you wrote a book, and they turn vicious fast. Read more

The Warhol Amiga discovery in context

The Warhol Amiga discovery in context

A team of digital archaeologists recovered a series of images off floppy disks from Andy Warhol’s estate, including a number of experimental images created by Warhol himself. Judging from the comments in the various places that covered the discovery, the Internet is unimpressed.

Yes, these images appear to be the result of Warhol messing around. In many ways, they’re not all that different from what anyone might produce today messing around with a digital camera and a simple paint program with a fill pattern.

I’m not sure how many of the critics realize Warhol created this stuff in 1985 or perhaps even late 1984, using preproduction, prerelease hardware and software. All of it was likely buggy. And, as much as I like the Amiga, none of it was anywhere near today’s standards at that point. The stuff he had to work with was nowhere near 1989 standards–the Amiga in its early days was notoriously finicky.

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The trade off of fidelity and convenience in marketing, and how it doomed my favorite company

I’m reading a book called Trade-Off, by former USA Today technology columnist Kevin Maney. It’s primarily a marketing book.

Maney argues that all products are a balance of fidelity and convenience, and highly favor one or the other. He additionally argues that failed products fail because they attempted to achieve both, or failed to focus on either one.

An example of a convenient product is an economy car. They’re inexpensive to buy and inexpensive to keep fueled up, but don’t have much glitz and you probably won’t fall in love with it. A high-end sports car or luxury car is a lot less practical, but you’re a lot more likely to fall in love with it, and gain prestige by driving around town in it. Read more

Getting past your own biases

I read Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive last week. I always figured it was an autobiography or memoir, not a business book. But it’s a business book.  A very good one.

I avoided it because I didn’t like Andy Grove. I’ve never been a fan of Intel’s business practices during the 1990s and 2000s, including using payola to keep competitors’ chips out of large computer systems, but after reading this book, I’m more disappointed than anything. Whichever company had Andy Grove wins, period. No need to cheat. Read more

The Post-Dispatch may be giving the wrong idea about the dollar value of vintage computers

Articles like Top 10 collectibles for value, from the Post-Dispatch this week, frequently make me nervous, mostly because of statements like this one:

[D]id you know that computer parts can bring home cash, too?

Statements like that tend to get people’s hopes up way too high. I find the timing interesting though, seeing as a TRS-80 Model 1 sold at a St. Louis estate sale this past weekend. The estate seller’s reaction? “Normally you can’t give that stuff away.”

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IBM PCjr and Tandy 1000

IBM PCjr and Tandy 1000

On January 29, 1984, two computers hit the market. One was Apple’s Macintosh. It needs no introduction. The other was the IBM PCjr. It was a little less successful. We’ll talk about what this has to do with the Tandy 1000 in a minute.

The PCjr is one of the biggest flops in computing history. Few people know much more about it than that. It ended up being an important computer, but it certainly didn’t meet IBM’s expectations. Read more

Sculley on Jobs

John Sculley famously fired Steve Jobs in 1985, a move that’s pretty universally panned today. This week, someone asked Sculley about it.

Here’s the money quote:

“He was not a great executive back in those early days. The great Steve Jobs that we know today as maybe the world’s greatest CEO, certainly of our era, he learned a lot in those years in the wilderness.”

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No, this doesn’t mean Ubuntu and Linux are giving up

This week, Mark Shuttleworth closed the longstanding Ubuntu bug #1, which simply read, “Microsoft has majority market share.” Because Microsoft didn’t lose its market share lead to Ubuntu, or Red Hat, or some other conventional Linux distribution, some people, including John C. Dvorak, are interpreting this as some kind of surrender.

I don’t see it as surrender at all. Microsoft’s dominant position, which seemed invincible in 2004 when Shuttleworth opened that bug, is slipping away. They still dominate PCs, but PCs as we know it are a shrinking part of the overall computing landscape, and the growth is all happening elsewhere.

I have (or at least had) a reputation as a Microsoft hater. That’s a vast oversimplification. I’m not anti-Microsoft. I’m pro-competition. I’m also pro-Amiga, and I’ll go to my grave maintaining that the death of Amiga set the industry back 20 years. I have Windows and Linux boxes at home, my wife has (believe it or not) an Ipad, and at work I’m more comfortable administering Linux than Windows right now, which seems a bit strange, especially considering it’s a Red Hat derivative and I haven’t touched Red Hat in what seems like 400 years.

What Shuttleworth is acknowledging is that we have something other than a duopoly again, for the first time in more than 20 years, and the industry is innovating and interesting again. Read more

The trouble with bringing your own software

PC Magazine is advocating a bring your own laptop, with your own software approach to business. It likens it to mechanics who bring their own tools.

The trouble is that while mechanical tools in a toolbox operate autonomously and don’t interfere with one another, software residing on a computer does. Read more

Mark Hurd doesn’t sound like he’s just what Dell needed

Word on the street is that Blackstone Group has a plan for turning around Dell: Buy the company, take it private, and install Mark Hurd as CEO. The thinking is that he’s available, has experience, and would have baggage keeping him from being the CEO of a public company.

I just see one glitch. Available != good fit.

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